BEAUTIFUL BALI

This September, 23 awesome adventurers joined Fisheye for another amazing expedition in Northeast Bali. We spent 7 glorious nights at Alam Batu Beach & Bungalow Resort diving, relaxing, enjoying spa treatments and exploring the cultural sights of Bali. What a little slice of paradise!

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Alam Batu rests at the base of Mt. Agung Volcano on a black sand beach in the sleepy village of Kubu. Nestled along a beautiful secluded beach, you can’t help but feel at one with nature and totally at peace. Dramatic rocks line the shoreline (batu means rock in Indonesian), while lush gardens and vegetation decorate the resort. The most “traffic” you’ll see are the beautifully decorated Jukungs (small Indonesian fishing boats with colorful sails) coming to shore with their daily catch.

The resort is very well appointed with a beautiful dining pavilion with a traditional Balinese thatched roof, a large outdoor dining area, a beautiful infinity pool, countless shaded daybeds nestled around the resort’s shoreline to relax in and of course a spa. The accommodation consists of a number of well spread out bungalows (with lovely outdoor showers) and a few villas (some with their own pool). The dive center is large in size and comfortably set up with individual stations for your gear. There are two camera rooms with large individual tables and charging stations and plenty of rinse tanks for cameras and gear.

Dyshera celebrating her birthday…the staff went out of their way to make it special!

Dyshera celebrating her birthday…the staff went out of their way to make it special!

The food is delicious, plentiful and well varied - you can choose from a wide selection of Indonesian, Balinese and Western dishes. Breakfast and dinner were typically buffet style and lunches were a la carte. But we were able to order anything off the menu throughout the day as needed. They had a wide variety of fresh juices and health drinks on offer as well as a selection of wine, spirits and local beer.

But I would remiss if I did not point out that the Balinese are some of the warmest, most wonderful and generous people that I have encountered in all my travels. They always greet you with a genuine smile and go out of their way to make you happy and feel at home. The service throughout the resort was wonderful. They made it very hard to leave on the last day.

But what we really came for was the diving…so I bet you want to hear about that! Northeast Bali has a wonderful variety of dive sites from reef to wrecks to black sand diving. Our group of 21 divers was split into 5 groups, which meant we had a great guide to diver ratio. And each guide very much catered to each groups interests and requests. While a few opted for more reef and wreck diving, the majority of us were focused on the super productive black sand muck diving. It was a literal treasure trove!

The eagle-eyed guides wasted no time in pointing out some of the hottest macro finds on even the most discerning diver’s critter hit list. We saw paddleflap rhinopias, bargibanti pgymy seahorses (pink & yellow!), tiger shrimp, harlequin shrimp, winged pipefish, frogfish (many varieties) , ornate ghostpipefish, robust ghostpipefish, halimeda ghostpipefish, boxer crabs, ambon scorpionfish, hairy shrimp, xeno crabs, solar powewred nudis, doto nudis, nudis laying eggs…basically a rainbow of nudis that dreams are made of (lol)!! The critter list goes on and on…it was like and underwater treasure hunt that never ended. The experienced guides knew how to find things fast and shuffle divers and photographers around so that everyone had time to see each critter and also take their time to work the shot. This place really is a photographer’s dream destination.

Bali is also home to a world famous WWII wreck, the USS Liberty, which was a highlight for many of our divers. You can see all things big to small on this well-encrusted wreck — from bumphead parrotfish to leaf scorpionfish to pygmies. It big enough that you really have to dive it a few times to take it all in. And sometimes really big things come in for a visit….such as mola mola! We thought this was an urban myth until some of our divers saw on on the last dive of their last day…on the house reef (which is totally awesome by the way)!! Sadly there was no photographic proof as it was quick and a bit far in the distance….but their euphoria was proof enough for me!

As if all that amazing diving is not enough of a draw, the topside sights and cultural activities in Bali are nothing short of spectacular. We had two non-divers on this trip and there was so much to do in the surrounding areas there was no change they could get bored. During our stay many of our guests took advantage of the tour services at the resort that helped them build custom itineraries to make sure they hit all the sights of interest to them. They visited temples, waterfalls, tasted the world famous Lawak Coffee, visited the cultural center of Bali, met monkeys, shopped, visited rice terraces and so much more.

Overall it was a spectacular, well rounded week at a lovely resort…so much fun was had by all, memory cards were filled and incredible memories were made. There is no doubt that Fisheye will go back to Alam Batu in Bali again and again.

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But what really made the trip was the group of truly exceptional and beautiful people that joined us. I can never say enough how much the guests that join our trips are what makes them so special…and what a fabulous group had on this adventure! We had so many repeat guests…and so many lovely new ones, that I am very happy to welcome into the Fisheye family. Can’t wait to adventure with all of you again…hopefully soon!

Best fishes,

Francesca x

PS: Make sure to let me know if you want to join our next trip to Alam Batu…I’m still looking at dates but will for sure be planning something again soon. But also know that Fisheye Expeditions is a proud booking agent for Alam Batu and can help you organize a trip there anytime.

FRENCH POLYNESIAN: PARADISE FOUND

This May, Fisheye Expeditions brought 25 adventurers to the exotic and sharky waters of Tahiti and the Tuamotu Island Chain in French Polynesia. Not only was the diving off the charts in so many ways…but the trip was just that much better because of the positive and happy vibes from each and every one of our guests. From countless sharks to mantas to dolphins, bonfires on the beach, daily sunset happy hours and Tabatha & Josh getting engaged (UNDERWATER!) …I don’t think we stopped smiling, laughing and celebrating for 14 solid days!

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Our adventure started in Tahiti where 22 of our group members met up for a pre-cruise add-on at Manava Resort to rest up after our flights, relax by the infinity pool…and to dive with TIGER SHARKS! We started out with a day to chill…some went snorkeling with DPV’s, a few rented a doughnut shaped boat with an umbrella filled with beers to enjoy out on the water, others drank mojitos by the pool and ate fresh tuna prepared the local Tahitian way…all in all it was the perfect way to start the trip.

The next day our group was split into two for our diving plan with Fluid Diving in Tahiti. One half started with reef dives to warm up and check out their camera gear while the others jumped straight into the action of the two tank Tiger Shark Dive experience! What a thrill!

The Tiger Shark Dive is hard to put into words…other than it is just positively epic. You start with a 20-30 ride out to “White Valley”, which provides a stunning view of Tahiti’s lush hills on one side and Moorea’s dramatic landscape on the other. While the crew puts the fresh tuna heads in the bait box, you suit up for your dives. You can expect to see 6 species of sharks …white tips, black tips, grey reefs, chunky lemons, big nurse sharks and of course the guest stars, Tiger Sharks. Not only is there variety but there are loads of them. You can see anywhere from 40-70 sharks on one dive.

The best way to get a sense of this experience is to check out this video shot by Mikko Varpiola.

As soon as we arrived at the dive site I knew it would be amazing when I saw the crew get veryyy excited — they spotted three big females right away! As we descended on the line, I saw the lemons sharks (which are huge) on the bottom in the distance and for a second thought they were the Tigers…until one passed by and completely dwarfed the lemon sharks. That gets the blood pumping! The Tigers we saw were BIG (4.5m/15ft) and feisty…and possibly pregnant. To get an idea of the size and scale of these amazing beasts check out this photo that Yuxin Guo grabbed of me capturing the shot right next to it below.

After the very first dive, one of my guests said to me, ”Ok, after that…it doesn’t really matter whatever else happens on this trip…I can go home happy now!” Well that was music to my ears but I knew that there was much more in store for us…and that we were just getting started. The rest of our group echoed that sentiment as I quietly hoped that the group the next day would have as much luck as we did. The next dive was even better than the last and delivered a huge cherry on top in form of a beautiful manta ray that visited us on our safety stop!

Di Faulkner having an amazing moment (which resulted in a fabulous video) with this gorgeous manta ray.

Di Faulkner having an amazing moment (which resulted in a fabulous video) with this gorgeous manta ray.

I am delighted to report that the group the following day had another amazing Tiger Shark day with very close up encounters (one even got hit by the Tiger’s tail!). And of course that led to a couple of nights of celebrating with sunset cocktails at the pool bar. Add in some pearl shopping, dining at Tahiti’s world famous food trucks and island tours…our group made the most out of our time on Tahiti and was raring to go for the French Polynesia Master.

After 3 fun filled days in Tahiti our group flew off to Rangiroa to meet up with the French Polynesia Master, which would be our home for the next ten nights to cruise through the Tuamotu island chain. The boat is massive and comfortably holds 25 guests. The cabins are comfortable and well appointed, the dive deck is huge and the very top deck is the best place to enjoy your surface intervals and daily sunset cocktails (one benefit to having no night dives on the trip).

One of the best things to know about this trip…and boat…is that it is the only liveaboard that serves French Polynesia (other than private yachts). Our cruise started in Rangiroa and ended in Fakarava — two places you can dive from land based operations. But we also visited 4 other areas (Tikehau, Apataki, Toau and Kauehi) that would not be possible to dive any other way. Talk about exclusive diving…we were the only ones in the water!

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We started off our diving at Tikehau Tuheivava Pass for our check out dives before heading to Rangiroa for two full days of super exciting diving. Aside from schooling fish and some sharks…the main attraction were the pods of super friendly dolphins that would come in very close to divers for some love and interaction. At first I wondered if this was not so cool for the dolphins…until I realized that these encounters very much happened on their own terms…and required lots of rubs and belly scratches! It was like spa time for the dolphins. As if that was not enough, we had a few lovely encounters with mantas and spotted a few sailfish!

To get the best sense of the magical dolphin encounters we had, watch this AMAZING trip video put together by the very talented Matti Oikarinen.

From Rangiroa we headed off to the atoll of Apataki Tehere where our group got their first taste of seeing huge amounts of sharks…like 100’s! But it would certainly not be their last. The diving in French Polynesia is “pass diving” (diving in between two atolls) where their is plenty of current, which draws in the pelagics. The best dives are always on the incoming currents, which bring the most action. Given the strong currents, we only dive from sunrise to sunset, which means you can really only get 1-2 incoming currents a day (if you are lucky). The rest of the dives are done on the outside corners, where there is less current and chance to slow down to smell the roses…and count the reef fish.

Our crew awaiting another exciting dive briefing in the salon of the French Polynesia Master.

Our crew awaiting another exciting dive briefing in the salon of the French Polynesia Master.

From Apataki we moved to the atoll of Toau and the Otugi Pass. We had plenty more action at this spot…but I would say the highlight was watching sharks hunt a massive school of big eyes. It was like watching a symphony on the reef as the sharks would come in for a pass and this massive school of red fish would move like a wave in the wake of the grey reefs…magic!

After our exciting dive day in Toau, the crew had arranged a very special surprise for us — a trip to a beautiful atoll for a sunset bonfire with snacks and of course cocktails. This was the beautiful spot our group took the obligatory group photo:) It was a gorgeous spot and a super fun evening!

Our next stop was Kauehi - Arikitamiro, where we got the chance to dive in the legendary pool of sharks! It’s like a coral amphitheater…filled with loads and loads of sharks! There were also some beautiful reefs filled a lovely variety of hard corals. And we also saw loads of coral grouper…who were starting to aggregate in preparation of their spawning event, which was due to occur in few weeks. We were able to witness a lot of courtship and fighting between groupers, which was pretty special to witness.

From Kauehi we steamed to Fakarava South, which was a huge highlight of the trip, for two days of jaw-dropping diving. Here we spent lots of time in the South Pass at the “Shark Observatory”, which was shallow with mild current and full, full, full of sharks! There is no doubt why they call it a “wall of sharks”!

The legendary “wall of sharks” a the Shark Observatory in Fakarava’s South Pass.

The legendary “wall of sharks” a the Shark Observatory in Fakarava’s South Pass.

On the first afternoon, we had the chance to visit an idyllic beach on our surface interval in South Fakarava.

In South Fakarava, we also witness loads of coral grouper aggregating and had some amazing photo ops under the shallow docks at the end of the pass.

Aside from all our amazing underwater encounters, we had a very, very special dive where Josh proposed to Tabatha…underwater! It was planned with the dive guides, videographers, photographers and fellow divers perfectly. At the end of one dive, our guide led us up to shallow sandy patch where everyone gathered around in a big circle. Tab was somewhere in the back shooting video wondering what the heck was going on. Finally we were calling her over and started pointing something out to her….a message in a bottle!

At this point she cottoned on and looked up at Josh who was sitting right in front of her and gave her a little nod. She opened the bottle and pulled out a canvas that said “Will You Marry Me” on it…and when she looked up Josh was there with a tiny treasure chest in his hand…which had the ring! She put on the ring and they kissed…and then we all celebrated!!! Sand was thrown (which was not such a great idea for the photos), regs were purged and tanks were banged in celebration. I am not sure there was a dry eye in the house. Later that night we celebrated with many bottles of champagne at sunset and into the night and wished them both a happily ever after!

If you want to see the whole thing in action…here is the link to Matti Oikarinen’s AWESOME video once again….it’s worth seeing more that once!

Aside from all the super exciting diving, the boat lifestyle was amazing. Wake up, little breakfast, dive, big breakfast, dive, lunch/nap/chill on top deck, dive, sunset happy hour (which was represented in full effect every day) followed by a hearty dinner and desert. The chef kept our bellies full and happy and the crew took excellent care of us. We were all sad to have to say good bye at the end.

Daily top deck sunset happy hours kept everyone in a great mood!

Daily top deck sunset happy hours kept everyone in a great mood!

We ended the trip in Fakarava North Pass, which offered panty of fish, sharks…and current! It was thrilling way to end the dive trip…with more manta sightings as well!

To see more of our dives come to life…check out this (other!) amazing video shot by Mikko Varpiola from our French Polynesia Master cruise.

Our 2019 French Polynesia Adventure Team! What an awesome bunch! Thanks for joining! Until next time!

Our 2019 French Polynesia Adventure Team! What an awesome bunch! Thanks for joining! Until next time!

Writing this, my heart is full of joy and gratitude for what an epically beautiful trip this was…not just because of the loads of sharks, dolphins, mantas, sailfish, crazy cool dives and fun topside events…but mostly because of the people who decided to join me. Thanks to all of you for being such a special part of this amazing adventure — it would NOT have been the same without you! Can’t wait to share another adventure together!

And for those of you who didn’t make this one…be sure to catch the next one (yes, there will be another!)...or hop on one of our other exciting upcoming trips. I look forward to the chance to adventure together!

Best fishes,

Francesca x

Francesca Diaco is a professional underwater photographer and the owner and operator of Fisheye Expeditions. She looks forward to welcoming you on an upcoming adventure!

Francesca Diaco is a professional underwater photographer and the owner and operator of Fisheye Expeditions. She looks forward to welcoming you on an upcoming adventure!

REUNITED WITH RAJA AMPAT

I had the great pleasure of working on a liveaboard in Indonesia from 2008-2010 and was lucky enough to dive the hottest areas in the region on a daily basis, including Raja Ampat. To say that I fell in love with Raja would be the greatest understatement of my ocean-loving life. Home to over 1711 species of fish and 600 species of coral, Raja Ampat has been dubbed the global epicenter of marine biodiversity and is arguably the best diving on earth. Both the topside and underwater worlds are so breathtaking, you can’t help but wonder if this is what the world, and ocean, looked like centuries ago.

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When I was planning Fisheye Expedition’s 2018 trip to Raja, I couldn’t help but wonder to myself if I was hyping it up too much in mind. Was I remembering it too fondly after an 8 year absence? Was I over-promising in my declarations of “the best diving on earth” and “jaw-dropping beauty”?! Well I am very pleased to report that it was just the opposite — the diving, which brought tears of joy to my eyes (and other’s on the trip), was better than ever! It was like living every diver’s fantasy dive after dive!

Don’t just take my word for it… please check out this video created by one of our extremely talented guests, Matti Oikarinen, during our recent trip to Raja. It’s magic!

Our group gearing up for a dive on the Indo Siren with all kinds of cameras big and small!!

Our group gearing up for a dive on the Indo Siren with all kinds of cameras big and small!!

This past November, myself and 15 fellow ocean lovers from the US, UK, the Netherlands and Sweden, boarded the lovely Indo Siren for a ten night liveaboard dive adventure. Our trip was scheduled at the perfect time of year, especially because it was silverside season in the south. So when we embarked the Siren in Sorong, Ed (one of the cruise directors) and I conferred about the trip plan and made a great decision to steam straight to Misool to see all the action right away.

The Indo Siren, our floating home for our ten night cruise through Raja Ampat.

The Indo Siren, our floating home for our ten night cruise through Raja Ampat.

And boy was that a great call because the sliversides were putting on a spectacular show! And when I say silversides…I am not just talking about a few groups of them in a creavase or cavern. Oh no…there were sun-eclipsing tornadoes of them almost everywhere you looked. They literally lit up the colorful corals and made the entire reef come to life…as if it was dancing. Then the predatory fish would swoop in with a heart-pumping swooshing sound causing the formations to split and change shape as we all hovered there torn between watching the spectacular show or trying to capture images of this incredible beauty.

A massive school of fish cascading down the reef like a waterfall at Wedding Cake in Misool.

A massive school of fish cascading down the reef like a waterfall at Wedding Cake in Misool.

We spent 5 glorious days in Misool diving all the legendary sites. When you drop in on any given dive you don’t know where to look first — it is like a reef on steroids. And the abundance of fish is just overwhelming. There are a rainbow of colorful soft corals, gorgonian sea fans the size of walls, an amazing diversity of coral and soooooooo many fish of all shapes, sizes and varieties…it just blows the mind. Add in some sharks and mantas…and you have all the elements of a wide angle paradise. It is no wonder how dive sites like Candy Store, Magic Mountain, Andiamo, Love Potion and Gorgonian Passage got their names.

But wait! If you can pry your eyes off the wide angle fish action and look more closely at the reef, you will also find a delightful variety of macro life — including loads of pygmy seahorses…in a variety of species! You can spot some really cool nudibranchs, crustaceans, octopus, and more. So every lens you own should be in your bag, even though it will be hard to pry off your fisheye lens (it was impossible for me!!).

From Misool we steamed north to the island of Batanta for a change of pace and some black sand muck diving — a full day of forced macro with no wide angle distractions:) It was so much fun! We found loads of great critters such as ornate ghostpipefish, cuttlefish, ghost gobies, a crazy variety of nudibranchs and shrimp…and a wonderpus to top it all off!

A pair of ornate ghostpipefish float around the halimeda algae in unison at Algae Patch in Batanta.

A pair of ornate ghostpipefish float around the halimeda algae in unison at Algae Patch in Batanta.

Next we were off to Piaynemo to dive some more world famous sites such as Keruo Channel, My Reef and (my personal favorite) Melissa’s Garden. As you move north you start to see a amazing diversity of hard corals, truly massive schools of fish including fusiliers and barracuda, wobbegongs, black tip sharks and massive as-far-as-the-eye-can-see fields of anthias dancing in staghorn coral.

Anthias dancing in fields of staghorn coral as far as the eye can see at Melissa’s Garden.

Anthias dancing in fields of staghorn coral as far as the eye can see at Melissa’s Garden.

A wobbegong shark sits perfectly posed on a hard coral at Melissa’s Garden.

A wobbegong shark sits perfectly posed on a hard coral at Melissa’s Garden.

We also went on a fabulous land tour a couple of hours before sunset in Piaynemo. First we climbed up the lookout to see the amazing arial view of the emerald colored islands and get some awesome (although sweaty) photos. Then we boarded the dingies for a tour of the lagoons. Afterwards, we went to lovely quiet beach for a sunset picnic and drinks. And to top it all off…on our way back to the Siren, a pod of dolphins swam around our dingy and jumped through the pink tinged water right at sunset. What a perfect day!!

Our entire group enjoying the spectacular view at the lookout at Piaynemo.

Our entire group enjoying the spectacular view at the lookout at Piaynemo.

The last two days of our trip were spent at the iconic dive sites (some of the first discovered in Raja) in the Dampier Straight. We hit all the classics such as Sardine Reef, Mike’s Point, Mioskon and Cape Kri …and they did not disappoint! The Dampier Straight delivered on diversity (fish, coral, species), an abundance of fish (are you sick of me saying that yet?!), plenty of wobbegongs and great photo opportunities.

Chevron Barracuda are among the many species of schooling fish in Raja Ampat.

Chevron Barracuda are among the many species of schooling fish in Raja Ampat.

Schooling glass fish move in unison around the beautiful hard coral at Mike’s Point.

Schooling glass fish move in unison around the beautiful hard coral at Mike’s Point.

There is really not enough I can say about Raja Ampat …except you can be sure I won’t wait another 8 years to return. In fact, Fisheye Expeditions is planning on making it a rather regular occurrence…and we have just booked our next trip on the Indo Siren for November of 2020! Spaces are going fast!

To join our next trip in Raja, or another one of our exciting adventures, please contact Francesca. And be sure sign up for our newsletter, which will keep you up to date on all of on all of our latest trip offerings.

Best wishes and lots of fishes,

Francesca

Francesca in her happy place at the top of Piaynemo after an epic day of diving:)

Francesca in her happy place at the top of Piaynemo after an epic day of diving:)


And So It Begins...

A new business name, a new logo a new website and blog...and an expanded concept all aimed at serving the needs of underwater photography enthusiasts in Roatan, Honduras.

Let me give you a little background...I first visited Roatan in the fall of 2000 when I was backpacking through Central America. I stopped off for what I believed would be a week...and I stayed five (as the story so often goes on this island). A couple of months later I came back to do my Divemaster and Instructor course. Before you know I was working as an Instructor and happily ensconced in the island lifestyle. I hung around for 3 years and racked up a couple of thousand dives before wondering what else was out there in our big blue planet. 

Francesca Diaco, Owner & Professional Photographer

Francesca Diaco, Owner & Professional Photographer

So off I went...for 10 years...to travel, work and dive my way through loads of awesome places...including Thailand, Indonesia, and Australia and more. I loved seeing new places, dive sites, and marine creatures and I soaked up every experience. In 2005 I picked up an underwater camera and I was hooked. After shooting with a compact camera for a year I quickly upgraded to a DSLR...and soon after my diving career evolved into being a full time underwater photographer. I worked as a photo pro, taught underwater photography and was shooting constantly. Then I started writing and publishing in magazines. All up I spent 8 years and thousands of dives in Southeast Asia and Australia working as a photographer. But in the back of my mind I always thought about Roatan.

Overheat Reef, Roatan

Overheat Reef, Roatan

In 2014, I went back to Roatan for a visit and was hooked once again. Soon after that 2 week visit, I went back for 3 months...and finally moved back. This beautiful little island...and its community, diving culture and lifestyle...is like no place I've ever been (and I have been to quite a few). And the reef and the underwater photography opportunities are just amazing!! Since December, I have have been in Roatan working as an independent underwater photographer shooting, writing, publishing...but mainly focusing on teaching underwater photography which is a true passion of mine. I just love helping people develop their talent and love of underwater photography.  

So then...why the new business name, logo, etc? After spending a year in Roatan, I saw the need to develop a dedicated creative space and resource for underwater photographers.  By offering personalized training programs and a full range of professional services, the needs of underwater photographers of all levels can better be served. Whether you are interested in improving your skills, an underwater photo session, camera rentals, or need help planning a dive trip to Roatan...there's something for you. 

I am passionate about promoting Roatan as an underwater photography destination. Its calm, clear blue waters make Roatan one of the best places to learn underwater photography, hone your skills, tackle a new technique or experiment with new gear. Combine that with its topside charm and easy island lifestyle and you have the recipe for the perfect dive and photography vacation!

Follow the blog to read about the latest news and underwater photography highlights from Roatan such as workshop dates, travel deals, and photo competitions...and what is being spotted underwater.  Regular features will also include great underwater photography tips, equipment advice and behind-the-shot posts and highlight the work of photographers who work and train with us.  Hope to see you real soon!!   - Francesca